Edmund Ruffin


The following account of the Florida secession convention is taken from the manuscript diary of Edmund Ruffin in the Library of Congress. Ruffin was perhaps the most eminent southern authority on agriculture in the twenty years preceding the Civil War and his experiments in soil fertility, described in his Essays on Calcareous Manures and in the columns of the Farmers’ Register which he edited, brought an agricultural renaissance to his native Virginia. Ruffin early became convinced that the interests of the agricultural South demanded that she cut loose from the Industrial North and form a Southern Confederacy. So ardent were his emotions on the subject that, at the first signs of secession, he hastened to South Carolina to witness her secede and then travelled down to Tallahassee to be present when Florida should withdraw from the Union. To the pages of his meticulously kept diary he confided the fullest contemporary account that we have of the Florida secession convention. The old fire-eater contrived to be in Charleston later in the spring when war broke out and to him was given the privilege of firing the first shot at Fort Sumter. At the end of the war, rather than outlive his beloved Confederacy, he took his own life. He has been the subject of a recent biography by Avery Craven, Edmund Ruffin, Southerner, (Appleton, New York, 1932).